While food has always had a component of pleasure, its primary function is to fuel our bodies. Feasts and over-indulgence in grandma’s day were reserved for Christmas and the occasional New Year’s Eve. There were no vending machines, and no one had ever heard of a snack. Oh, how times have changed…
If you have children, you’ll know that snacks are required for any activity that exceeds thirty minutes. Parents are continuously required to provide snacks for school activities and at home. Snacking has not always been part of our daily routines, but both parents and children crave the processed foods that provide a welcome reprieve in our busy lifestyles. There are, however, inherent issues with grazing.
The Tyranny of Snacking
Between 1970 and 2002, the number of Americans who ate three or more snacks a day increased from 11 to 42 percent. This increase is coupled with a decrease in eating three meals a day and the tradition of family dinner. Busy parents and over-scheduled children mean parents look to prepackaged snacks to fill the gap. In 2008, the snacking industry in the US exceeded $68 billion, showing that adults had gotten in on the snack trend. This has led to Americans getting 40% of their daily calorie intake from foods with poor nutritional value. The average Brit now eats popcorn, chips or nuts seven days a week.
All this snacking means fewer people are sitting down to three square meals a day. Skipping a meal causes your bloody sugar to drop and you crave snack foods with high sugar content. Constant snacking elevates your insulin levels leading to insulin resistance which, in turn, leads to diabetes. Two thirds of adult Americans are clinically obese or overweight.
Eating snacks, deli meats, sugary cereals, fast food, energy bars, sodas and commercial bread products has meant that this generation of children are the first to have a lower life expectancy than their parents. The new life expectancy of 77 is shorter because obesity is reducing average life spans by a greater rate than accidents, homicides and suicides combined, say the authors of a new report published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
With life spans that are two to five years shorter, obesity has a bigger impact than having cancer or heart disease.
Bring Back the Family Dinner
Snacking is not only bad news for our health, but most people report feeling guilty about snacking. The solution couldn’t be more simple—eat the food your grandma gave you. Grandma didn’t have any energy drinks, fruit gummies or power bars. Food back then grew on trees, plants and shrubs. Grandma would have wanted you to eat seven to ten servings of fruit and vegetables a day as recommended by Health Canada. She wouldn’t have recognized most of the processed foods you eat and would stick to three square meals and bring back the family dinner. Here are some scientifically-endorsed reasons to eat dinner as a family:
- Research shows that kids learn 1,000 new words at dinner table conversations compared to the 143 they learn when you read to them at night.
- Family dinners were a better indicator for high achievers than art, sport or homework. Teens who ate dinner with their families seven days a week were twice as likely to get A’s.
- Children who eat family dinners are more likely to eat foods high in nutritional value and more likely to eat healthy when they lived alone.
- A wealth of studies show that families who eat together produce teens who are less likely to smoke, binge drink and use drugs. These teens are less likely to be violent, engage in sexual activity or have eating disorders.
Food as Medicine
The pressure to fit in with the incredibly high body standards that society sets for us has meant that food is associated with guilt. We overindulge, but we feel bad about it. Snacking and fast food make us feel bad about ourselves and the food we eat. This vilification of food leads to poor relationships with eating and our bodies.
Ditching the processed foods and returning to the home-cooked meal will mean guilt-free eating that will fuel our lives and even has the potential to heal our ailments. Home-cooked meals have a reduced impact on the environment too.
Research shows that a change in diet has the ability to reverse the symptoms of diabetes, prevent cancer, and even affect mental health issues like hypertension, depression and anxiety.
Inflammation is at the heart of almost every major disease because it is part of the body’s immune response. Adding ginger, turmeric, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, nuts fatty fish, strawberries, blueberries and oranges among others.
Some foods cause inflammation like refined carbohydrates, fried foods, soda, red meat and margarine. Just changing your diet here can help to reduce the symptoms and pain associated with chronic diseases.
Not only can diet heal your ailments and fuel your life, it can help you to concentrate, build muscle, give you energy and help you to sleep so you can rest and repair.